Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

At the age of twenty-three, David Leavitt burst on the American literary scene with a collection of short stories entitled Family Dancing (1984). The stories dealt with issues of sexuality and terminal cancer. Family Dancing received the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Because of his youth, Leavitt received much attention and was hailed by some as the new voice of his generation.

Two years later, The Lost Language of Cranes, Leavitt’s first novel, appeared to mixed reviews. Focused more clearly on homosexual themes and characters, it established him as a gay writer. During the mid-1980’s, the gay rights movement was well into its second decade and approaching a certain maturity; Leavitt’s novel was noted for dealing with gay themes in a very accessible and universal manner. Despite the critical response, The Lost Language of Cranes spent many weeks on best-seller lists and was a popular success. In 1992, the British Broadcasting Corporation filmed an adaptation of the novel, transferring the story to London.

Leavitt’s other works include Equal Affections (1988), a novel about a family facing its matriarch’s slow death; a second collection of stories, A Place I’ve Never Been (1990); and a novel set in wartime England entitled While England Sleeps (1993). Leavitt has lived in Europe, and his work enjoys great popular and critical success there.